Reversible protein phosphorylation regulates circadian rhythms

Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2007;72:413-20. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2007.72.048.


Protein phosphorylation regulates the period of the circadian clock within mammalian cells. Circadian rhythms are an approximately 24-hour cycle that regulates key biological processes. Daily fluctuations of wakefulness, stress hormones, lipid metabolism, immune function, and the cell division cycle are controlled by the molecular clocks that function throughout our bodies. Mutations in regulatory components of the clock can shorten or lengthen the timing of the rhythms and have significant physiological consequences. The clock is formed by a negative feedback loop of transcription, translation, and inhibition of transcription. The precision of clock timing is controlled by protein kinases and phosphatases. Casein kinase Iepsilon is a protein kinase that regulates the circadian clock by periodic phosphorylation of the proteins PER1 and PER2, controlling their stability and localization. The role of phosphorylation in regulating PER function in the clock has been explored in detail. Quantitative modeling has proven to be very useful in making important predictions about how changes in phosphorylation alter the clock's behavior. Quantitative data from biological studies can be used to refine the quantitative model and make additional testable predictions. A detailed understanding of how reversible protein phosphorylation regulates circadian rhythms and a detailed quantitative model that makes clear, testable, and accurate predictions about the clock and how we may manipulate it can have important benefits for human health. Pharmacological manipulation of rhythms could mitigate stress from jet lag, shift work, and perhaps even seasonal affective disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Casein Kinase Iepsilon / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Casein Kinase Iepsilon / genetics
  • Casein Kinase Iepsilon / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Feedback, Physiological
  • Mammals
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Period Circadian Proteins
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Per2 protein, mouse
  • Period Circadian Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Ubiquitin
  • Protein Kinases
  • Casein Kinase Iepsilon
  • Phosphoprotein Phosphatases
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex